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Monday, 21 November 2011

The Future has arrived...Bionic contact lens 'to project emails before eyes'

We've all watched the old sci-fi favoutires from Star Trek to Dr. Who, from Torchwood to Blakes Seven, but the gadgets we saw them using like Captian Kirk's teleporter gizmo ("Beam me up Scotty!") was just a thing of the show, and like all of the gadgets therein, it was just part of the escapist magic of the show, never really anything we thought would actually come into the real world. Well now all that has changed.

bionic eye  
The vision is to stream real-time information in front of the eyes

A new generation of contact lenses that project images in front of the eyes is a step closer after successful animal trials, say scientists. The technology could allow wearers to read floating texts and emails or augment their sight with computer-generated images, Terminator-syle.

Researchers at Washington University who are working on the device say early tests show it is safe and feasible. But there are still wrinkles to iron out, like finding a good power source. Currently, their crude prototype device can only work if it is within centimetres of the wireless battery. And its microcircuitry is only enough for one light-emitting diode, reports the Journal of Micromechanics and "our next goal is to incorporate some predetermined text in the contact lens” said lead researcher Professor Babak Praviz.

But now that initial safety tests in rabbits have gone well, with no obvious adverse effects, the researchers have renewed faith about the device's possibilities. They envisage hundreds more pixels could be embedded in the flexible lens to produce complex holographic images. For example, drivers could wear them to see journey directions or their vehicle's speed projected onto the windscreen.
Similarly, the lenses could take the virtual world of video gaming to a new level. They could also provide up-to-date medical information like blood sugar levels by linking to biosensors in the wearer's body.

Dr Praviz and his team are not the only scientists working on this type of technology. A Swiss company called Sensimed has already brought to market a smart contact lens that uses inbuilt computer technology to monitor pressure inside the eye to keep tabs on the eye condition glaucoma.

One wonders what will come next? Electronic chip implants that are placed in your hands and eyes to help you play better table tennis or golf? Extra digits or metatarsal implants to help you play better football? Technology is ushering in a quiet new but revolutionary world at breakneck speed.

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